Seoul may rethink Iraq deployment

The coming to power of the Uri party in South Korea could result in a rethink on Seoul's decision to send 3,000 troops to help the US-led occupation in Iraq.

    The Uri party leadership celebrates

    The party's policy chief Chung Sye-kyun, on Friday, referring to the deployment said, "We've committed to a mission of peace and reconstruction, and it's still possible we'll be able to do that. But if the situation deteriorates seriously, we might have to think about it again."


    The rethink on Iraq could be part of a larger shift if Uri and impeached President Roh Moo-hyun (if he is reinstated by the Constitutional Court) change the emphasis in ties with the United States, Seoul's ally for half a century.


    Analysts meanwhile, described the victory of the liberal Uri party as the dawn of a new political era in South Korea era which ended conservative control of parliament and gave a vote of support to the impeached president.


    The Uri Party captured a majority in Thursday's election on a groundswell of support for President Roh Moo-hyun, tripling its seats at the expense of the parties that sent him into a political limbo last month for violating a minor election law.


    Big victory


    The Uri Party won 152 seats in the 299-seat National Assembly, the National Election Commission said.


    The opposition Grand National Party won 121 seats, down from the 133 it had in the last parliament, which it dominated.


    "...But if the situation deteriorates seriously, we might have to think about it again"

    Chung Sye-kyn,
    policy chief, Uri party

    The third-largest party was the leftist Democratic Labour Party, with 10 seats. The Millennium Democratic Party, which initiated last month's vote to impeach Roh, captured a mere nine seats. Small parties and independents won seven seats.


    "Our people wrote a new history of elections," acting President Goh Kun said in a televised address. "With this election, I hope a new era of politics of coexistence and

    cooperation will be born."


    Goh, who is interim leader until the Constitutional Court rules on the impeachment vote, said the government and all political parties should concentrate on reviving the economy.


    Thursday's election marked the first time a left-leaning or liberal party had wrested control of a hitherto conservative chamber and meant the pro-Roh Uri Party could push through reformist legislation long stalled by opponents. "Uri" means "our" in Korean.


    "I think the election results reflected well what the public wants," said taxi driver Jong Hae-ryang, 51. "The impeachment shouldn't have happened and I'm really tired of politicians fighting all the time. I hope they do better this time."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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